altMay 11 - Tomorrow promises to be an important day in determining where the 2012 Olympic boxing competition is going to take place.


That’s when an International Boxing Association (AIBA) evaluation committee, consisting of Paul King, chief executive of the Amateur Boxing Association of England, and Franco Falcinelli, chairperson of AIBA’s Technical & Rules Commission, is due to assess what the notion of moving the sport away from the Games’ East London epicentre to Wembley actually entails.


The switch would enable Games organisers to save about £20 million by not building a planned temporary venue, known as North Greenwich Arena 2.


Instead, badminton, rhythmic gymnastics and sitting volleyball would move to the ExCel Arena and boxing to West London.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month gave the go-ahead for London 2012 organisers to implement the move – but only if they get boxing’s agreement.


I must say I have yet to detect a scintilla of enthusiasm for the idea among the various boxing luminaries I have spoken to in recent days – and I can’t say I’m really surprised.


If you’ve been slotted in close to the nerve-centre, why would you willingly move to the other side of town – unless you were offered some fairly juicy incentive?


On the other hand, the sport is seeking to have women’s boxing included in the London programme without, so far as I can see, cutting the number of men’s events, so perhaps there is scope for some sort of pugilistic Grand Bargain under which boxing’s medal count is permitted to rise significantly in return for the sport consenting to this move.


Incidentally, I have been told (though have been unable entirely to confirm) that the Wembley (pictured) blueprint may call for training and weighing-room facilities to be positioned at a hotel closer to the centre of the city on Edgware Road, which apparently is adjacent to a dedicated Olympic lane.




Times are changing for boxing


These are certainly intriguing times for amateur boxing – as was brought home to me on a recent visit to AIBA’s Lausanne office, across from the local tennis club and (more surprisingly) just up the road from a swish, bluish building housing a well-known international cigarette company.


Besides the issue of female boxing and the Olympic Games, two further initiatives caught my attention in the briefing I received.


The first was the plan for a series of boxing academies that should further improve the standard of judging in Olympic bouts.


This ought to be appreciated by Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, who when I spoke to him recently included improving the quality of judging and refereeing in Olympic sports as one of four items he thought might be considered among the main achievements of his first term.


The first academy is earmarked for a Canadian town called Bécancour, which I had previously only heard of because of its (rather large) aluminium smelter.


Another in Moscow should be up and running before the London Games.


All judges at London 2012, I was told, would have an academy qualification from Bécancour or Moscow.


And then there are the plans to launch the so-called World Series of Boxing.


This will be a global competition in which four city-based franchises in each of the Americas, Europe and Asia compete to be crowned individual and team world champions.


Boxers, who will fight over five three-minute rounds, will receive a salary and prize money, but – crucially – will retain their Olympic eligibility.


Each franchise will field a squad of 10 boxers across five weight categories: bantam, light, middle, light heavy and heavy.


I gather each franchise can have a maximum of seven home-nation boxers, so all the teams should have a pronounced international flavour.


New competition may slow talent drain


If it catches the public’s imagination, one of the new competition’s effects could be to slow the quadrennial exodus of the most talented Olympic boxers into the professional fight game – a phenomenon with which British boxing is, shall we say, mightily familiar.


This would, in turn, help AIBA to market the sport and should further enhance boxing’s improving standing in Olympic circles.


Who knows, it might in time foster the development of two- and three-time Olympic champions of the calibre of Teófilo Stevenson, Félix Savón and Mario Kindelán from countries other than Cuba, to whose fighters professional boxing is usually off limits.


AIBA and partner IMG have recently been meeting potential franchise-holders in countries such as Russia, Italy, Korea, the Philippines and India.


The competition’s inaugural season is expected to get under way in September 2010.